Nutritionist Salary

A nutritionist, also known as a dietitian, organizes and lays out food programs from beginning to end. This can include meal preparation and the serving of meals. Nutritionists may delay, prevent, or treat illnesses by providing or modifying a client’s diet. Clients with high blood pressure might receive tips on designing a low sodium diet, for example.

Nutritionists are usually able to enjoy steady hours with respectable salaries. Health and life insurance may be included as part of the compensation package. Vacation time and sick leave days are typically allotted to nutritionists on a yearly basis.

Salary Overview

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wages for a nutritionist was $50,590 in May of 2008. The lowest 10% of nutritionists earned below $31,460. The middle 50% of nutritionists earned between $41,060 and $61,790. The highest 10% of nutritionists earned above $73,410.*

Nutritionists working in food research and development had the highest median annual wages at $66,061. Private business and consulting nutritionists earned $60,008 per year. Community nutritionists earned the lowest median annual wages at $48,006.*

*According to the BLS,

Salaries for nutritionists varied by geographic location and level of experience. Suburban nutritionists typically earned more than rural or urban nutritionists. Nutritionists with a master’s or doctoral degree typically earned significantly more than average, as did nutritionists certified as Registered Dietitians by the American Dietetic Association.

Training and Education Requirements

A nutritionist will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Nutritionists usually major in dietetics, foods and nutrition, food service systems management, or a major related to these. Graduate level coursework is highly recommended for nutritionists looking to work in the upper echelon of the field. Graduate level students study foods, institution management, nutrition, psychology, and sociology among others. Suggested additional coursework for nutritionists includes business and economics, which will help nutritionists determine appropriate nutrition plans for clients with budgets.

The American Dietetic Association’s Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education had approved 279 bachelor’s degree and 18 master’s degree programs by 2008. Attending an accredited school is recommended for nutritionists.

Most states required nutritionists to hold a license or undergo an examination. Certification from the American Dietetic Association as a Registered Dietitian can improve the chances of advancement or promotion.

Job Description and Outlook

A nutritionist may work in an office or hospital setting for most of their workday. However, most nutritionists will spend time in a kitchen on a regular basis. This can include checking or organizing food ingredients, showing how to prepare or cook a specific item, or altering a meal plan. Nutritionists may have to travel to attend meetings and meet with clients in their homes.

Most nutritionists work a standard 40 hour work week. Some nutritionists offered weekend hours. Food research and development nutritionists may work increasing hours as deadlines approach. Consultant nutritionists usually work hours of their own choosing. Consultants may have to travel more than salaried nutritionists. Roughly 19% of nutritionists had only part-time hours in 2008.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) believes the demand for nutritionists will grow about 9% between 2008 and 2018. An aging population in the U.S. will create more demand for nutritionists in community health programs, hospitals, and assisted living facilities. In addition, public interest in healthy lifestyles and food education is expected to increase.*

*According to the BLS,

Nutritionists with work experience or educational coursework in diabetic and renal nutrition or gerontological nutrition are expected to see the highest rate of demand. Nutritionists with master’s level degrees or extra certifications will have greater opportunities to choose their positions.


Currently, 46 states have laws to govern nutritionists and dietitians. Of these 46 states, 33 require a license to practice, 12 require statutory certification, and 1 merely requires registration. Specific legal requirements may apply depending upon the state. In the 33 license-requiring states, only people with a license may practice as a nutritionist. For the 12 statutory certification states, only people holding the certification may be titled a nutritionist or dietitian. People without certification can still practice the work, but cannot advertise or be titled as a nutritionist or dietitian to the public. Licenses and state certifications will not transfer between states. Nutritionists should contemplate where they want to work before sitting for a state’s examination.

The Commission on Dietetic Registration of the American Dietetic Association certifies nutritionists as Registered Dietitians. The certification is different from state certifications. An ADA Registered Dietitian requires academic coursework and a supervised internship. Supervised internships must be accredited opportunities by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. An examination can then be taken to apply. A Registered Dietitian must take at least 75 credit hours of approved coursework every five years to maintain the certification.

Professional Associations

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) counts nearly 67,000 food and nutrition professionals among its members. About 75% of their members are registered nutritionists. First founded in 1917, the ADA works to advance food science and public health. The ADA publishes nutrition-related papers and helps to establish food and nutrition guidelines. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is a monthly research publication oriented towards advances in the field of dietetics.

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